Father Faber’s Faith and the Heart of Mary

Father Frederick William Faber, the great 19th century Oratorian convert of the Oxford movement, is remembered chiefly for a few popular, rather sentimental hymns. But his prolific literary output also tells the story of an ardent soul on a journey of  spiritual discovery. Faber, perhaps more than Blessed John Henry Newman, stands for the childlike joy experienced by a convert from Protestantism, on discovering the human warmth of Catholicism, with its loving Madonna and child. For him, keeping Jesus and Mary before our eyes is what the Christian life, in the light of the incarnation, is all about.
 
“I cannot conceive a man as being spiritual who does not habitually say the rosary” (Growth in Holiness),
 
His journey from Protestantism to Rome was, like the news of the incarnation itself,  
“Like the dawning of the morning,
On the mountains golden heights,
Like the breaking of the moonbeams
On the gloom of cloudy nights,
Like a secret told by angels
Getting known upon the earth.”
 
This was the journey he made … beginning with a head disconnected from the heart, to the wholeness of Catholic faith, where the heart finds again its true place:
 
“The solemn face, the downcast eye,
The words constrained and cold,—
These are the homage, poor at best
Of those outside the fold.
They know not how our God can play
The Babe’s, the Brother’s part;
They dream not of the ways He has
Of getting at the heart.”
 
Of Mary, he writes, movingly,
“But scornful men have coldly said
Thy love was leading me from God;
And yet in this I did but tread
The very paths my Saviour trod.
They know but little of thy worth
Who speak these heartless words to me;
For what did Jesus love on earth
One half so tenderly as thee ?”
 
He is quintessentially nineteenth century, quintessentially English. And we need to rediscover him, as he rediscovered the “Faith of our Fathers”, so that we can exclaim, with him, a special joy before the obedient and loving sufferings expressed by the Immaculate Heart of our Blessed Mother:

 

Mother of God! we hail thy heart,
Throned in the azure skies,
While far and wide within its charm
The whole creation lies.
O sinless heart, all hail!
God’s dear delight, all hail!
Our home, our home is deep in thee,
Eternally, eternally.

 

To hear more about Father Faber, Mary’s English Muse, come and hear Father Sebastian Jones (pictured second from left), founder of the new Cardiff Oratory, at the Chavagnes Studium Conference, 31st July to 4th August in the heart of Catholic France. More information: http://chavagnes.org/studium/about-us/summer-conference-2017/
The Chavagnes Studium Summer Conference is an annual gathering of Catholic friends in an atmosphere of scholarly piety and conviviality, with plenty of good French food and wine.  Daily Mass, talks, visits, relaxing meals in good company. Do come and join us! We promise you will have wonderful time and be spiritually, intellectually and socially refreshed!!

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